La Cucina Matematica, Twitter, and the MTBoS

Saturday I spent in Alameda at the COE with Matt Vaudrey, John Stevens, and several other educators. We were learning about teaching math in an engaging and focused manner. I have actually been to their workshop before, and was asked by a colleague if I would attend again. I was happy to, I find Matt and John very entertaining and love learning from and with them. Their workshop is called La Cucina Matematica and their website is extremely helpful. Their workshop includes work from Fawn Nguyen, Sadie Estrella, Andrew Stadel, and others that I find inspiring from the MTBoS. When I first began using twitter approximately 1 1/2 years ago, I was fortunate to stumble upon this group, and I haven’t looked back since.

We spent the day engaged in several different activities, counting circles, estimation 180, the mullet ratio, visual patterns, and discussions of the Standards for Mathematical Practice, which are the foundation of all of the activities. We talked about how important and exciting it is to see kids who have not been very successful in mathematics come alive and begin to justify and stand firm on their mathematical beliefs. Kids believing in themselves and their ability to learn and use mathematical ideas. I love being reminded how important this work is, and that others are as passionate and involved in the learning of students and their success as I am. I often felt very alone in this at my previous site.

I want to thank the “Regional System of District and School Support” for supporting and hosting this and other strong and wonderful programs like this for teachers and teacher leaders around the North Bay area. While I have been fortunate to have been a part of the MTBoS and to learn from and with these wonderful educators, there are so many who are not connected to twitter and are missing a large part of this PLN. The group of educators to which I refer are dedicated, supportive, active, reflective and collaborative. We work together constantly to improve, strengthen and create strong teaching and learning. Sometimes we just have a lot of fun discussing nerdy and goofy things. One thing John said that really resonated with me, when he was working on a presentation for a classroom that he hadn’t taught for a bit, he put his lesson plan out there and asked for opinions and help. Within minutes he was receiving help and suggestions from many different sources. This just doesn’t happen consistently on sites.

My practice has improved immensely in the past year and a half, and as I work with teachers I am constantly thinking about, “How would the MTBoS think about or dig into that”, and “How can I use my PLN to strengthen my work with teachers?” I am sharing the things I learn from these marvelous people, and hope that I can offer something to this wonderful PLN of which I am a member.

Thanks once again for the learning, reflection, and reminder to always strive for more.


Asilomar Nerves, Part 2

I’ve returned home after a wonderful learning and teaching experience at CMC North in Asilomar. On Friday I was discussing my nervousness and concern about my session and Ignite on Saturday. This is the follow up to that post.

To my surprise, I had a full room for my session Saturday morning. Several of the teachers there told me this was “exactly the session they were looking for” and I found out Saturday evening that two teachers were sent there by a PD facilitator I met at our district when the original facilitator took ill and she substituted. She told me they came back excited from my session and were showing her several pages of notes and ideas they had accumulated during our time together. We had a very interactive and collaborative session, teachers worked through an activity I wrote to encourage students to inquire and develop a definition. Afterward, we talked about some extension activities that could be planned and ready for any students who completed the task. The participants had several great ideas, and I was able to model pulling out of the conversation and allowing the room to take over. Things went very well, exactly as I had hoped they would. Only a couple of the participants are using twitter, so I pitched the MTBoS and encouraged them to start “lurking”. It worked for me.

I ran into Steve Leinwand during the day, and told him how I had feared that I would have an empty room having to compete with him. He said, “this should show you that you can fill a room all by yourself”. I felt very validated, as I always do when I interact with my colleagues from the MTBoS and twitter. CMC North is a wonderful conference, smaller that the NCTM conferences and in a beautiful setting at Asilomar, it feels very warm and friendly. Meals are set up so that you really have no choice but to sit with new people each time, and some very interesting conversations are often the result. There is a little more time between sessions also, so it doesn’t feel so rushed to get to the next session or that you have to leave early to make it. Unless, of course, Dan Meyer is speaking.

Saturday night was invigorating. There were ten of us presenting Ignite talks, and I was number seven on the list. As I listened to the six in front of me, I began to notice my fear rising, and the feelings I often fight of not being good enough. When it was my turn, my first words were, “I feel a little intimidated right now”. As the slides started, I forgot about that and just gave way to the desire to share what I had put together. It went much better than I had anticipated, and quite a few people made a point of telling me both Saturday night and this morning how much they enjoyed my talk and related to it.

All this, and sessions by Robert Kaplinsky, Shalek Chappill-Nichols from RAFT, Andrew Stadel, Jo Boaler, Phil Daro, and many, many more that I was unable to get to but heard great things. I have seen presentations by some of the other presenters and have learned great things from them, so I believe all that I heard. I ran into people I haven’t seen for a while, including one of my methods instructors from my credential program. It’s just a wonderful place, and I’m happy I was able to be a part of it.

One more step in my journey toward becoming a better educator and believing in myself.

CCSS and Teachers

I’m now in my fourth week as a Math Academic Specialist for K-5 teachers. I’m really learning and beginning to sit down with teachers as they plan, and try to make sense of the district pacing calendar that has been created for them. One of the things that has been the most difficult for the teachers, is to attempt to put EnVision Math into the CCSS and make it make sense. Many of them are frustrated with trying to utilize the resource in the pacing schedule. Many of them are confused about how to make the resource work, and many of them are just frustrated with EnVision as a whole. Looking through EnVision myself, to become familiar with it, I had decided that if I were teaching at this level, I would definitely put the book aside as a resource and be looking elsewhere for my activities and lessons.

As I sit in the planning with the teachers, the first thing I am advocating is that EnVision is not their curriculum, the standards are. As this sinks in, I see relief come over the faces of the teachers. Many of them have told me that was very liberating for them, they knew there was a lot missing there, but felt obligated to “go with the curriculum”. As they change their thinking to realize that “go with the curriculum” means “go with the standards”, they are becoming excited about the things they can do and ways they can introduce the ideas of the standards in engaging and realistic ways. I found myself sitting back and listening to ideas of creating a small town, each classroom being a different store or business, and having the students “visit” the different businesses and engage in decision making, buying and selling, etc. I became excited listening to them, realizing that our teachers are very creative and really desire to bring good learning to our students, they just thought they didn’t have time because they had to cover the “curriculum” or what they understood to be the curriculum. This is in our K-2 level classes.

I have been working on creating a list of resources for the teachers, bringing some of the best of what I know to be out there in the MTBoS and other places, and continually searching for more. They are excited about these, and have asked for SMP posters in kid friendly language for their classrooms. The kids are subitizing, justifying, and just plain problem-solving, and I can’t wait to see what else they will come up with as they are liberated more and more from being tied to a publication, rather than the curriculum.

Meanwhile, I am learning more about how younger kids think and learn, and I am hoping that as I can start to visit classrooms more, I will be able to contribute to TMWYK and show the MTBoS what NVUSD can do with math learning in our classrooms. I am grateful for the challenge I have been given, and excited about working with the younger kids, something at which I never thought I would excel.

TMC – My Musings

Good morning.

I have read some of the blog posts occurring at the conclusion of TMC, I will read others as I am able. The ones I have read caused me to reflect on my time at TMC, and my experience and reaction to that experience.

I began to be active on twitter approximately one year ago. It was last summer after I had done all my planning that I began to lurk and wonder on twitter, to see if it would be of any use to me. It didn’t take me long to get drawn into a conversation and make a couple of comments, from there it has been “full speed ahead.” I love the people I have met on twitter, and some of them I have yet to meet in person, but I feel as if I know them better than some of the people I interact with face to face. The “passion” and energy with which they approach teaching and life is what drew me in, and continues to draw me.

I too felt a little overwhelmed at TMC, not because I felt I was nothing in a pool of greatness, but because I realized very quickly that the people there were every bit as real as I had hoped they would be. I was afraid that the energy and passion that I saw on twitter would quickly disappear in person, that it wouldn’t have the substance that I experienced in chats and conversations on-line. I was relieved to see that it did.

I was somewhat torn about how much interacting I could do. My husband was with me and I felt awful about leaving him all day and wanting to sit and talk with my new found colleagues in the evening, so I didn’t spend the socializing time that I really needed to with them. I am not very social, yet I know that I would have been easily able to socialize with the people at TMC. My husband, however, felt very out of place, and inadequate for the conversations that were taking place. He is not an educator.

I have been passionate all my life, about everyone and everything. It is what makes me the educator I am, and the person I am. It is that passion that drives me to be the very best I can be in whatever I am involved in. The passion that I have comes from the God that I know intimately in my life, it is what makes me feel that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing, and drives me to work so hard at it. Because of that passion and drive, I have often in my life run into people who are drawn to me, and want what I have. Because another one of my strong characteristics is to give, I often give so much of myself and my passion to others that I am “sucked dry” by them, and then need to refill. Ayn Rand refers to this type of person as a “second-hander” in her novel “The Fountainhead”. BTW, for all you passionate people, I highly recommend both “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged”. They gave me a very personal and enlightening picture of myself and why I do what I do.

The educators I have become involved with and consider my PLN on twitter are also very passionate and driven people. Not only do they not suck me dry, they fuel the passion that I already have, and drive me to desire to learn, grown, and create even more. That is the energy that I felt this past week in Jenks, OK; and the energy that I will continue to strive to be a part of this coming year as I shift gears to a district level leadership position and work to create that passion in other teachers in my district. I know now that I will definitely need to look to my twitter PLN for the energy and fuel that I need, and realize that most of the educators that I will be working with on sites will need me to be that fuel and energy for them. Thank God, I know where to go to get what I need to continue to do my work.

While most of this post has been a response to what I was hearing about TMC, I need to give another shout out to a very special and important twitter group in my PLN. The Christian Educators have been a life-saver for me this year! I have gone through some of the toughest experiences ever this past year at school and personally, and my weekly chats with this group, as well as the constant encouragement from very special educators such as Rik RoweDavid GeurinWade Stanford, and many, many others too numerous to name, I made it through and have a renewed desire to create some greatness this year.

I am meeting today with my new immediate supervisor to get some insight into where to begin, and to see my new corner of the world. I am hoping to come out of that with a better idea of what the district expectations are, and begin my own creative process on defining myself and my position. This is all because of the passion I have, and the PLN I have which renews this passion in me constantly.

Thank you all more than I can ever say or possibly show. You are all the bomb! Keep up the good work.

July Challenge – TMC 1st day

All right, I have not done well this week at blogging at all. I have truly enjoyed the time with my sister, however, and have been doing some sightseeing and learning. We spent one day in Coffeyville, KS and learned about the Dalton Gang and their demise. We also visited the Precious Moments Chapel and museum and learned the story behind the creation of those wonderful figurines and paintings, and spent a rainy afternoon in Groves, OK perusing antique shops. It has been very interesting and enjoyable, and has definitely left me not wanting to blog.

Today was the first day of Twitter Math Camp, however, and I do feel that I need to write a little. First of all, what an incredible experience, being in a room of 150+ math educators who are all seeking information, collaboration, and interaction with other math educators seeking the same thing. The workshops and presentations are completely given by classroom teachers and coaches and people interested in creating better math education at all levels. There is an energy that just can’t be explained in words, you have to experience it yourself.

The morning session I decided to attend is a group workshop facilitated by Elizabeth, who had several ideas for creating a working relationship for groups, as well as activities to encourage students to become group participants. After lunch we heard from Steve Leinwand, who is well know in the math community, NCTM, and an author of “Principals to Action” the newest publication on the CCSS. He is a dynamic speaker, had us laughing, problem-solving, and reflecting on our own math learning, as well as how we introduce topics to our students. It was very enlightening.

The afternoon session I attended was led by Chris Luzniak, again a discussion on class discussions, and how to encourage student justification of their ideas and claims. It was a wonderful extension to the morning session with Elizabeth, and gave me some good insight into the work I will be doing with teachers, PLNs, and coaching. The final session for the day was Jason Valade from Tech Smith discussing Snagit, and it’s uses for classroom teaching and enhancing lessons.

I only wish I could have attended everything, there were so many great workshops and sessions going on. It was very difficult to choose one per time slot. I will definitely be collaborating with others who attended sessions I was unable to attend, and sharing information with them from mine. This is definitely a great professional collaboration opportunity, and I am grateful to be here this year. I highly recommend it, and give a might shout out to the people who spent the time and energy to put it together! Great job.

This evening before dinner a group of teachers who will be teaching geometry next year met to create a list of blogs, discuss a twitter chat time, collaborate and meet each other so that they will have a PLN to work with during the school year. Ideas were exchanged, blog sites compiled, and a list of possible guest speakers for Global Math Department’s webinars which air on Tuesdays at 6pm PST. I love twitter and the MTBoS! There is no better way to teach and learn!

July Challenge – Making Progress

I’m grateful for this challenge and the bloggers I am meeting because of it. Reading the other posts has helped me so much, and I’m beginning to feel more motivated and energetic as I am moving through the month. 

I was offered the position for the district level Math Academic Specialist, and asked for 24 hours to think on it and reflect. I talked it over with my husband and a friend, and will be making my final call in the morning. I feel much better having been offered the position, and the discussions I had have also helped. I feel like a weight has been lifted from me, and I am feeling more like myself. I really have been affected emotionally by the drama of the last school year and the interview processes I have been involved in the past month. Ideas are beginning to flow, I am starting to take a look around me and think about things that need to get done, and how to accomplish them. 

I really appreciated Shelli’s blog today and Shelley’s blog. No, that’s not a mistake. I’m also realizing that Shelli titled her blog “Productive Day” and I’m now beginning to feel productive myself. I haven’t been physically productive, yet, but I now know where to begin, and that’s half the battle. I also appreciated Justin’s note on my post from yesterday. I am so grateful for the MTBOS and the encouragement and energy I receive from them. I am so looking forward to meeting so many of them next week, and especially getting productive and focused. I have so much to learn and do, and am getting excited about it. 

I will write more tomorrow about my decision and what my next steps will be. I am allowing myself to sleep on it tonight to be sure I have made the right decision, and to notify the appropriate people before becoming public with it. 

Lastly, I appreciate all of you who have hung with me through the blog posts and continued to read and the comments and support I have received. You really have helped me to get through this difficult time, and I look forward to becoming more productive again. 

July Challenge – Vacation and TMC

Sunday morning my husband and I will be leaving for Oklahoma. My sister and her husband live there, and this year I am attending TMC, TwitterMathCamp, for the first time. This has been my first year on twitter and after meeting quite a few very creative and innovative educators, I decided that this would be a great way to spend a few days in the summer. I am excited about meeting so many of the teachers I have been interacting with and learning so much from. I am also excited about seeing my sister and her husband again, this time at their home, to which I have never been. 

I’m also looking forward to getting back on my feet after having a difficult year and finding myself all but frozen this summer. A couple of times I have attempted to start some lesson planning, looked at a couple of things, then lost interest. This is not like me, and I’m hoping that TMC will help me get back on my feet. 

I had one last interview this morning. I was a little anxious going to it. I have heard several times that I did a great job interviewing, then not been offered the job. I really don’t want to hear one more time that I have been “edged out” of something. One of the interviewers this morning was the superintendent that I worked with last year, which made me feel better. I did some good work last year for the district, preparing math teachers at the middle and high schools for the change to CCSS this year and changing to the Integrated Math pathway. Two other teachers and I wrote lessons, assessments, and activities to help teachers introduce geometry to algebra students and see what integrated math would look like at that level. The teachers I spoke with afterward said that the work we did was so helpful, and reduced their anxiety quite a bit. They feel better about moving to integrated mathematics this year because of the work we did. Another teacher and I were also able to come up with some resources, one of them being Mathematics Vision Project, so that they had something to work with until we could pilot some materials and get an idea of what we feel will work best for our district. We also previewed quite a few materials and narrowed down the amount of material the other teachers needed to look at and make decisions about. It took quite a bit of time, but I do believe it was worth it in so many ways. I’m just finding myself concerned that my work and skills won’t be recognized, and on the other had, concerned that they will want me for this position and I will have to explain to the principal at the school I just transferred to why I won’t be teaching there. Either option feels very uncomfortable at the moment. 

I guess it won’t hurt me to take this time off. The courses I am scheduled to teach are familiar to me, I haven’t taught Pre-Calculus in a while, and will definitely need to do some work planning for inquiry and modeling, but I know I can do it. There’s also a lot of people and resources available to help me get my ideas flowing, I’m just so used to having a lot of it done by now.